June  2004      Vol. 13, No. 6  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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REAP Hispanic Rural Business Center Operational
Providing the Essential Business Development Services for Hispanics in Rural Nebraska

By Jeff Reynolds, REAP Program Director

The Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP), a program of the Center for Rural Affairs, received a one-year Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) from USDA and has recently begun work with a new initiative, the REAP Hispanic-Rural Business Center.

The purpose of the grant is to establish a new rural Hispanic business development program, the REAP Hispanic Rural Business Center without walls (RH-RBC), to provide key business development services to rural Nebraska Hispanic entrepreneurs on a Nebraska statewide rural basis. We anticipate this new project will impact 50 Hispanic startup and existing entrepreneurs in its first year.

The new Center will provide Hispanic startup and existing businesses with small business management training, networking opportunities, one-on-one technical assistance, and access to small loans. Without this service, business development services for rural Hispanic entrepreneurs will continue to be virtually unavailable or extremely underserved in rural Nebraska.

The Hispanic Rural Business Center is focusing on three Nebraska communities during the first phase of the project: Schuyler, Scottsbluff, and South Sioux City. These communities have an extremely large Hispanic population and are located in Nebraska counties with the highest Hispanic population base throughout rural Nebraska.

According to the 2000 U.S. Bureau of the Census, the community of Schuyler (located in Colfax County) has a population of 5,371 with a Hispanic population of 2,464, or 45.9 percent of Schuyler’s overall population base. The community of Scottsbluff (located in Scottsbluff County) has a population of 14,732 with a Hispanic population of 3,485, or 23.7 percent of Scottsbluff’s overall population base. The community of South Sioux City (located in Dakota County) has a base population of 11,925 with a Hispanic population of 2,976, or 25 percent of South Sioux City’s overall population.

A survey focusing on Hispanic businesses was recently completed at South Sioux City by the Siouxland Minority Business group. The initiative study group also included personnel from the City of South Sioux City, the Rural Enterprise Assistance Project, the Siouxland Area Small Business Association, the South Sioux City Chamber of Commerce, Briar Cliff University, Wayne State College, and several other local organizations.

The study found almost three-fourths of the minority businesses were formed within the past five years, most are family owned and managed, and most owners are interested in taking specific business training.
The final results clearly show the need for small business development efforts, including training, technical assistance, and lending opportunities. The full report is available on the Internet at http://www.southsiouxcity.org

The REAP Basic Business Management Training was recently completed at Scottsbluff and is set to start at South Sioux City. In achieving scale, the REAP Hispanic Rural Business Center will eventually be available in all rural areas in Nebraska. Phase two of the project will involve adding three more pilot communities and potentially hiring a bilingual staff person. Phase three would involve statewide rural expansion.

Contact: REAP Program Director Jeff Reynolds jeffr@alltel.net, REAP Northeast Business Specialist Karen Linnenbrink karenjl@cableone.net, or REAP Panhandle Business Specialist Jerry Terwilliger j414@charter.net with questions or comments.
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